.223 For CQB

Reprinted from "Guns & Weapons For Law Enforcement"

By R.K. Taubert

Close Quarter Battle Reputation


Shootout Results

It was late in the morning on a hot July day in 1993, when members of a major Western cites' police tactical unit executed search and arrest warrants in connection with a narcotics raid on a 'biker residence.' The tactical officers were armed with Sig-Sauer 9mm P-226 pistols and 16-inch barreled Steyr Aug .223 caliber carbines with optical sights. The Steyr, loaded per SOP, with twenty-eight Federal 55-grain HP rounds was the primary entry weapon for several officers on the team. Steyr carbines were selected for this raid, because team leaders anticipated shots 'Out to 25 yards.'

The team was required to knock and announce, effectively negating the element of surprise. Approximately 92 seconds into the raid, the officer involved in the following shooting incident was in the process of cuffing a subject when two Rottweiler dogs attacked. While other officers were dealing with the dogs by employing OC aerosol, a 6-foot-tall, 201 -pound subject high on 'speed,' suddenly burst into the room occupied by the police through a locked door and leveled a 9mm pistol at one of the tactical officers. The distance between adversaries was approximately 20 feet With his back essentially to the subject, the involved officer acquired the threat in his peripheral vision, whirled around and commanded.  'Police, put your hands up,' while clearing the Steyr's safety and mounting the weapon. The subject then shifted his pistol, held by one hand in a bladed stance, towards the reacting officer. In 'less than a second' the subject's hostile action was countered by the officer by firing two fast, sighted, tightly controlled pairs, for a total of four rounds at the subject. Rounds one and two missed, but were contained by the structure. Round three connected, penetrated and remained in the subject. Round four grazed his upper chest and exited as he spun and fell. Round three was quickly effective. The collapsing subject ceased all motor movement and expired within 60 seconds. The involved officer was aware of each round fired and simultaneously moved to cover. Tactical members were then confronted by a female accomplice armed with a double-barreled shotgun. However, the involved officer also successfully negotiated her surrender. All .223 rounds that missed the subject struck parts of the buildings internal structure, fragmented and remained inside.

When the autopsy was performed, the forensic pathologist was amazed at the degree of internal devastation caused by the 223 round. There was a two-inch void of tissue in change chest with a literal 'snowstorm' of bullet fragments and secondary bone fragments throughout the upper left chest area. The round struck the subject I I inches below the top of his head and inflicted the following wounds:

What is significant about this 'instant one shot stop' was that the round did not strike the subject at the most effective or optimum angle for penetration and did not involve any direct contact with the heart or central nervous system. It is doubtful that this type of terminal ballistic performance could have been achieved by any of the police service pistol/SMG rounds currently in use.

Although this is only one incident and could be an aberration, police tactical teams require this type of terminal ballistic performance to enhance their safety and survival particularly during CQB engagements, where criminals most often enjoy a positional and action-versus-reaction time advantage.

The FBI study clearly demonstrates the following: (1) that .223 rounds on average, penetrate less human tissue at dose range than the hollow point pistol rounds evaluated, (2) concern for over-penetration of the .223 round, at close range, has been greatly exaggerated, (3) with the exception of soft ballistic garment penetration. the .223 round appears to be relatively safer for employment in CQB events than this hollow point pistol bullets tested.

Observations and experience indicate that high velocity rifle buffets generally produce more serious wounds in tissue than pistol bullets. regardless of range.

Violent temporary cavitation, in conjunction with bullet yaw and fragmentation, are essential wounding components for high velocity rifle projectiles.

As range and bullet stability increases and velocity decreases, rifle caliber wound severity decreases and penetration increases.

Where soft target penetration requirements exist and over-penetration concerns are prevalent, police should employ hollow point bullets in this caliber.

Full metal case or heavier soft point bullets may be more appropriate for hard target penetration in this caliber.

The .223 and the current carbine systems available for it are highly versatile and well suited for urban as well as rural operations. However, because of enhanced terminal ballistic performance.  Rifles are recommended if targets are expected to be engaged beyond 200 meters.

The ability to train with one shoulder weapon and caliber for both CQB and open air options simplifies logistics and training, makes training more efficient and is cost effective.

Under current pricing, police agencies can realize significant savings by purchasing single-fire carbines instead of select-fire submachine guns.

Because of 'political' considerations; and perhaps concern over the possibility of more serious injuries caused by errant 'friendly fire,' the highly versatile and powerful .223 carbine may not be a suitable COB firearm far some departments. However, if the above factors are not involved, the .223 carbine is an extremely flexible and effective antipersonnel weapon with, in many cases, handling characteristics actually superior to many contemporary SMGs. It offers the advantages of reduced logistics, lower costs and reduced training time when compared to agencies employing multiple specialty weapons. The caliber in its current offerings is far from perfect but in spite of some shortcomings, I anticipate that in the future it will eventually replace pistol caliber SMGs in many police departments and law enforcement agencies.